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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of…

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great… (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Timothy Egan

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Title:The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
Authors:Timothy Egan
Info:Mariner Books (2006), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 340 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (2006)

  1. 40
    The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar themes: pioneers and farmers facing the wrath of nature in middle America; relatively compelling pop history.
  2. 20
    Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: A story of immigrant prairie homesteaders in Canada during the 1930's. Tough times.
  3. 10
    Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s by Donald Worster (eromsted)
  4. 10
    Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect That Shaped the American Frontier by Jeffrey A. Lockwood (sjmccreary)
    sjmccreary: another overwhelming hardship for farm families in the plains - also very readable
  5. 00
    Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery (lbeaumont)
  6. 00
    Harpsong by Rilla Askew (GCPLreader)
  7. 01
    Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban (etxgardener, RidgewayGirl)
    etxgardener: If you liked The Worst Hard Time, your love Bad Land which describes the same ezperience in the northern plains.
    RidgewayGirl: A different part of the country, but a similar tale of immigrant farmers and enormous determination.

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Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
Excellent description of the dust bowl era told from the prospective of the people who lived through it. ( )
  addunn3 | Apr 28, 2016 |
This book told the tale of several families that headed west for the "free" land and encountered problems caused my weather (a severe drought) and constantly fluctuating prices for the crops they were able to grow.

Sometimes they had mountains of money and other times their crops were worthless.

The book was rather dry, no pun intended, and left lots to be desired, IMHO. ( )
  cyderry | Apr 26, 2016 |
Before the story-tellers take their memories to their graves, Timothy Egan reports on the stories of a few families who lived through the terror of dust storms in our nation's Dust Bowl. Egan uses the voice of the people who sought out a better life and lived through the drama of devastated land to bring attention to the "ruinous ignorance of nature's ways." Here are the stories of surviving the terror of dust storms that destroyed crops, filled homes with dust, and even killed loved one. Here are the tales of those who saw the rise and fall of a region because of environmental arrogance and political ineptness. Conmen who knew well the probability of failure, convinced the poor of the east to move westward and begin new farms. Yet, Egan's stories highlight the endurance and heroism of people even when faced with disaster. In this novel, Egan captures another historical era of American grit and at the same time provides a cautionary tale of the conflict between nature and man. Excepts from this text work fit well into a unit on the elements of Romanticism or a unit on Naturalism. The Romantic belief that man is part of nature and should be wary of trying to conquer it, The Worst Hard Time serves as evidence that Romantic beliefs are true. When discussing the conflict between nature and man, I would also use London's "To Build A Fire" as a compare/contrast story. Articles and videos discussing Global Warming are also useful with this text. Stories of Native American relocation work well as evidence that man can adapt to natural surroundings, regardless of unfavorable conditions, and survive.
http://what-when-how.com/native-americans/native-americans-of-the-southwest/ ( )
  sgemmell | Apr 20, 2016 |
This was a very popular book around here a few years ago and I can see why. It tells the story of the men and women who lived through the Dust Bowl in 1930s. This era is one of the most shocking eras of human destruction of the world we live in. Settlers were encouraged to move to this land that had previously only been inhabited by nomadic Indian tribes, bison, and a few ranchers. The settlers moved in, tore up all the grasses, and planted wheat. For a few years there was a boom. Lots of rain and soaring grain prices made it seem like a great idea, but then the inevitable dry years came and grain prices bottomed out with the Great Depression. The combination of grasses that had held the soil in place for centuries was no longer there and the wheat fields that replaced them lay fallow. The relentless wind moved millions of tons of topsoil all around the country in horrific dust storms.

The book is written in narrative nonfiction style, following the lives of several families in Texas and the the Oklahoma panhandle. It was effective to explore the people who stayed through the decade of dust storms since most people are more familiar with the "Okies" who fled west. Overall, I wished that the book had focused a bit more on the science and ecology of the situation rather than the human interest stories, but it did make for engaging reading.

I was pretty horrified, but not surprised, by the the disaster that humans caused. Much of the area was replanted with grasses, a process that is still being worked on. The discouraging thing is that Egan mentions briefly that the main solution, though, has been to tap into the vast underground aquifer known as Lake Ogallala. It is the nation's largest source of fresh water and it's being drawn down 8 times faster than nature can refill it to irrigate these grasslands and the remaining farms. Seems like we could be creating an ecological disaster just as bad as the dust storms in the 30s if we aren't careful. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Mar 22, 2016 |
A great way to learn about the great dust bowl, what led up to it, and what might be done to avoid a similar catastrophe, not that we are ever all that good about learning from our mistakes. I bought this book for my husband, and we both enjoyed reading it. Not a fun book, very sobering and sad. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
The Worst Hard Time," takes the shape of a classic disaster tale. We meet the central characters (the "nesters" who farmed around the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles); dire warnings (against plowing) are voiced but ignored; and then all hell breaks loose. Ten-thousand-foot-high dust storms whip across the landscape, choking people and animals, and eventually laying waste to one of the richest ecosystems on earth.
Racing at 50 miles an hour, the Dust Bowl storms of the 1930's blasted paint off buildings; soil crushed trees, dented cars and drifted into 50-foot dunes. Tsunamis of grasshoppers devoured anything that drought, hail and tornadoes had spared. To the settlers, "it seemed on many days as if a curtain were being drawn across a vast stage at world's end." Families couldn't huddle together for warmth or love: the static electricity would knock them down. Children died of dust pneumonia, and livestock suffocated on dirt, their insides packed with soil. Women hung wet sheets in windows, taped doors and stuffed cracks with rags. None of this really worked. Housecleaning, in this era, was performed with a shovel.

On April 14, 1935, the biggest dust storm on record descended over five states, from the Dakotas to Amarillo, Texas. People standing a few feet apart could not see each other; if they touched, they risked being knocked over by the static electricity that the dust created in the air. The Dust Bowl was the product of reckless, market-driven farming that had so abused the land that, when dry weather came, the wind lifted up millions of acres of topsoil and whipped it around in "black blizzards," which blew as far east as New York. This ecological disaster rapidly disfigured whole communities. Egan's portraits of the families who stayed behind are sobering and far less familiar than those of the "exodusters" who staggered out of the High Plains. He tells of towns depopulated to this day, a mother who watched her baby die of "dust pneumonia," and farmers who gathered tumbleweed as food for their cattle and, eventually, for their children.
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Between the earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out. -- Willa Cather
To my dad, raised by his widowed mother during the darkest years of the Great Depression, four to a bedroom. Among the many things he picked up from her was this skill: never let the kids see you sweat.
First words
On those days when the wind stops blowing across the face of the southern plains, the land falls into a silence that scares people in the way that a big house can haunt after the lights go out and no one else is there.
The banks seldom said no. After Congress passed the Federal Farm Loan Act in 1916, every town with a well and a sheriff had itself a farmland bank - an institution - offering forty-year loans at six percent interest... ...If it was hubris, or "tempting fate" as some of the church ladies said, well, the United States government did not see it that way.

How to explain a place where black dirt fell from the sky, where children died from playing outdoors, where rabbits were clubbed to death by adrenaline-primed nesters still wearing their Sunday-school clothes, where grasshoppers descended on weakened fields and ate everything but doorknobs. . . . America was passing this land by. Its day was done.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618773479, Paperback)

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since.
Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is “arguably the best nonfiction book yet” (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents an oral history of the dust storms that devastated the Great Plains during the Depression, following several families and their communities in their struggle to persevere despite the devastation.

(summary from another edition)

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